‘We are committed to an unqualified act,
not illustrating outworn myths or contemporary alibis.
One must accept total responsibility for what he executes.
And the measure of his greatness will be the depth
of his insight and courage in realizing his own vision.
Demands for communication are presumptuous and irrelevant.’
– Clyfford Still, Abstract Expressionist Painter

Calligraphic signifiers rouse masterful enumerators
an experiment with a curl of smoke, perhaps . . .
there’s a way to measure time in that

she felt her body astonishingly vague
the wave nature of electrons taking over
words being wind or web
sound and suggestion speared
open . . .
lively and intact in a recurring wave
of arrival.
the soul establishes itself.

language seduces astral bodies,
inscribing their orbits . . .
before one’s shadow ever grew
out of the field into thoughts of tomorrow.
definition of a proper sense of distance –
a dog barking off in the barn, a mystical stroke.

our pellucid order blown apart
in the mysterium tremendum
bouquets of adoration and
certitude unending . . .
to trace you in
the charcoal outlines
of angels
enshroud your song
in rice paper

say that a ballad
wrapped in a ballad,
casting hollow precipices,
jousts firm convictions
underneath the cumulous chatter of troubled skies

I am threshing felicity
for we are language – lost
longing to be free, outside, but we must stay
posing in this place. we must move
as little as possible . . .

we see only postures of the dream,
satiated by pearls of ancient treasure
paths of glacial time pouring over steppes
white irises gleaming on clay surfaces,
pounded stardust on our filigreed emotions

Fuck! I want to be bound by devotion!
Tortured by passion!
in the cavern you understand how
a shadow works
because you’ve brought your own light . . .

free will in blind duel
half-life elements unwinding
earth as thought of the sea
I will dream you.
draw you.

that is the tune but there are no words . . .
The words are only speculation.
(from the Latin speculum, mirror):
they seek and cannot find
the meaning of the music –

I seek shelter along tantalizing downspouts
a tremulous, daring surrender
skin lost borders

traditional imagery fills up
with unfamiliar shadows
(if properly abstract)
the strewn evidence meant something,
the small accidents and pleasures –
something like living occurs, a movement
out of the dream into its codification . . .

how many people came and stayed a certain time,
uttered light or dark speech that became a part of you
filtered and influenced by it, until no part
remains that is surely you
those voices in the dusk –
she meant energy & how in her dream
it came back to her
she hummed her own notes . . .
volumes of secrets to teach

the leashed stars kindle thin
clear space of blackness
tiny words of substance cross
the darkness
uniform substance,
a magma of interiors . . .

suck wonder and
lyrical promises amidst this
crumbling compulsion of syllables
float in ephemeral delirium
avidity penultimate in a
fugitive dialogue of masterwork
a desirous, glowing, sensual unraveling

Notes: This is a cento, a poem made up of lines from other poems, like a collage. This piece cheats a bit by using some lines from my own work too. Lines are pulled from John Ashbery’s Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror, Ray DiPalma’s Rebus Tact, Maureen Owen’s African Sunday, and Susan Howe’s Speeches at the Barriers. Thanks to Samuel Peralta for the nourishing prompt at dVerse Poets Pub.